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People of Zero To Engineer: Chris Evans

People of Zero To Engineer: Chris Evans

Education has always been the primary avenue I’ve chosen to progress my career. Shortly after earning my associate’s degree, I started working as a Business Analyst making $29k/year for Assurant. Budgets and data analysis came easy to me, but after 7 years I just couldn’t stay in the same place anymore. I had to change careers and start looking for other exciting opportunities where I could
learn and grow.

I’ve always been fond of IT, but didn’t have a way to break into the industry. So I left my $48k/year salary at Assurant and enrolled as a full-time student in the computer science program at Bowling Green State. Then the financial crisis hit in 2008 and my time at Bowling Green was cut short. I never finished my degree because I couldn’t renew my student loans. Day by day my financial situation got worse and I needed to do something quick.

Fortunately for me, a friend from Bowling Green landed me a job at a start-up he worked for called Consumer Choice Marketing. In terms of compensation, Consumer Choice was stingy, but times were tough and $35k/year salary was better than being unemployed. What I wasn’t expecting was my friend leaving the company so fast, which forced me into his open position as an IT Manager.

With no prior IT experience, I was suddenly responsible for the entire IT department. A majority of my troubleshooting techniques involved unplugging/plugging cables or calling external consultants for help. Things went surprisingly well until we upgraded our old Linksys to a new Cisco 2901 industrial router. I obviously had no clue when it came to setting up the router so I called a consultant again.

I closely watched the consultant configure the router and I was hooked. Without even knowing what I was looking for I started diligently researching networking programs. I had no plan on how to go about the networking career path, but I knew I wanted to do what the consultant was doing. After watching tons of online videos and buying expensive learning materials for certs, I knew I was lost. Turning to education this time around seemed like a bad idea, until I came across the Zero to Engineer program.

Zero to Engineer gave me an in-depth look at the entire IT industry and how to navigate it. For the first time in my life I had clarity and the vision needed to break into the IT industry. Timing was perfect too because Consumer Choice began letting multiple people go and I knew it was time to move on myself.

After completing the program, I landed an interview with the Toledo Public School District for a Network Admin position. Terry mentored me throughout the entire interview process and I was offered the job with a $57k/year salary. I’ve been in the role for a couple years now and manage the entire network infrastructure for the school district. I’m making a very comfortable salary of $69k/year now and it wouldn’t have been possible without the knowledge and mentorship I received throughout the Zero to Engineer program. I hope to level up as a Systems Engineer in the near future and become a consultant for the businesses in my local community.

Zero to Engineer gives students the training and experience that no one gives in tech education. It exposes students to every aspect of networking and equips them with the knowledge and tools necessary to break into the IT field.

People of Zero to Engineer: Keron Taylor

People of Zero to Engineer: Keron Taylor

I never thought I would say this, but breaking my wrist was a blessing in disguise. I was working as a Chemicals Operator at BASF; one of the world’s largest chemical companies. My job duties included driving fork lifts, unloading tankers, and running multiple chemical reactions, which constantly exposed my body to danger. To my surprise, what took everything away from me was cracking my wrist in a non-work related accident.

I was initially out of work for weeks, which turned into 6 months. My disability checks went from 100% of my pay to 65% and the chances of me going back to BASF dwindled.

My interest in IT pushed me towards studying for the CCNA. Unfortunately, I got overwhelmed and completely abandoned the thought of going into IT. One day as I was scrolling across Facebook, I came across Terry’s webinar and decided to enroll in the Zero to Engineer program. I had exhausted all of my options and thought I’d give ZTE a chance. I was working as a printer tech by day and focusing on the program at night. I was able to pass the CCENT with the knowledge I received from the Zero To Engineer modules.

By Module 4, I gained the confidence to apply for entry-level IT jobs and landed a contract position with Modis as an Operations Engineer at Google. During interviews I caught myself constantly thinking back to information I learned from ZTE. The lessons laid the foundation I needed to land the job. My job duties went from putting my body in harms way to adding devices onto networks and porting fiber into racks. My routine is incredibly flexible now and I’m constantly collaborating and working with employees across various teams.

I’m closely following the career blueprint Terry helped me develop and I’ll be updating him on my progress in 6 months. I’m working towards finishing the ZTE program and racking-up more hands on experience along the way. I’m happy that I get to spend more time with my family and make a living doing what I’m passionate about. So yes, you can say that breaking my wrist was a blessing in disguise.

From zero to Samsung Network Engineer in 18 months

From zero to Samsung Network Engineer in 18 months

He had been standing impatiently in line waiting for quite some time,  like everybody else on his side of the stage. It was hot and somewhat humid, the sun was glaring on his face and the dark outfit he was wearing from head to toe wasn’t helping in any way.

The crowd seemed very friendly, they cheered every time they heard a name—a little over the top in his opinion. He had a funny feeling. He seemed to know that after walking across the stage, things were not going to be as simple as going through a study guide and answering a list of questions.

That things were most likely going south for many of the twenty-somethings standing next to him. The crowd was aware of the crude reality of adult life, but they cheered for everyone anyway. He wondered why, but it didn’t matter, it was his turn. “Kevin Lee”, a voice said loud and clear.

He walked across the stage in front of the cheering crowd, counting every step of the way; as if his Fitbit wasn’t already doing that for him. He stretched his hand, grabbed it and walked off. Right in the middle, in big fancy bold letters, it read: Bachelor of Arts in Economics.

Kevin graduated in 2014 from Rutgers University. He completed one of the most challenging programs offered at the school. His family was very proud, of course. All those years of preparation and hard work had finally paid off. It was now time to capitalize on the skills he had developed.

He was looking to jumpstart a career full of intriguing challenges and opportunities. He had very high, but realistic expectations of himself and his career. He was very excited for growing as a person and as a professional. When he stepped off that stage with his diploma in his hands, he was full of ambitious goals for the future.

Nonetheless, less than three years after his graduation, he was not working in anything related to economics. He had spent so much time mastering econometrics and calculus. All the all-nighters he pulled off trying to understand different theories led to nothing. 

Right out of college, he jumped into a role as a project manager working for an interior design company. It was an amazing experience, but it wasn’t what he had envisioned—not much to do with economics. But a much better start compared to the struggles his classmates were facing. 

He wasn’t inspired by the company’s mission, and felt like project management wasn’t for him. So after 8 long months he decided to quit and do something where he could put his degree to use. He landed a job working as an accountant in a CPA office.

But once again, he found himself looking at the clock way too many times when he was at work; it was too repetitive. He learned a lot on the job, but two years into his career, he was considering leaving it all behind and starting from scratch. He wanted a challenging job. A job where he could tackle new, and big projects often and continuously grow his skill set. He began looking for alternatives, and found Terry Kim.

He learned about IT for the very first time and about the Zero to Engineer mentorship program. Especially the ever-changing nature of the IT industry, and how it always pushes people to develop their skills sets had intrigued him. He was very curious about all the different career avenues that IT could offer.

He immediately knew that he wanted to enroll. It was exactly what he had been looking for. Zero to Engineer could teach him the secret formula to jumpstart an IT career within months. It would take much less time compared to what it was going to take to get an associates degree at a local community college.

He committed to his decision and dove into the program. He followed all the advice he was given and executed on every homework assignment, only pausing to catch up on sleep. Lesson after lesson, he acquired a thorough understanding of the industry.

He received  a solid networking foundation through the lessons Terry instructed him to go over. And, he earned a couple of technical certifications along the way. He took great advantage of his one-on-one mentorship sessions, which he used to plan his career roadmap. He never doubted his decision of not pursuing a career related to his hard-earned economics degree.

Instead, he studied hard—as if this were the last chance he had to have an exciting and fulfilling future. He studied and studied, reaching out to the Zero to Engineer community every time he needed help with something. He made the most out of every minute of his mentor sessions.

It only took him 2 months to finish the entire program. He was ready. It was now time to put what he learned into use and break into the industry. But before, he needed to solve the hands-on experience problem. He needed to do it quickly—before he had second thoughts about leaving his college education on the shelf and pursuing a career in tech. 

Terry helped him evaluate the best way to break into the industry. At the time, he was living with his parents and wasn’t in serious need of earning an income. So, Terry suggested that he apply for internships to get experience handling real equipment.

This way, he could aim for a network engineering role right from the start. The only issue was that landing an internship to develop his skill set was going to be hard. There were often hundreds of applicants seeking one or two spots. He used one of Terry’s industry navigation tactics, to fix this issue.

He woke up early the next morning. He felt the same anxiety he had before when his name was called at his graduation ceremony. He got on his computer and reached out to dozens of people via LinkedIn asking to meet for coffee.

Each time, he would craft a well-thought out message, looking over every person’s profile and searching for common interests to add to the messages. This way, he could increase his odds of starting a conversation. No one, but one person replied to him. They met at a local coffee shop a few blocks down from where he was living at the time.

They spoke about trends, recent controversies, new technologies and the IT field in general. They ended up talking for over an hour. It was a thoughtful conversation full of occasional laughs here and there. Kevin walked away with a 3-month internship offer. Mission accomplished. During his internship, he learned about troubleshooting, ticketing, monitoring and reporting on new configurations.

Three months flew by. The end of his internship was approaching fast and he needed to capitalize on his experience. He took on LinkedIn once again and reached out to people asking for coffee. Shortly after ending his internship, he landed a role as a Network Engineer at a company called Coranet Corp. At Coranet, he installed, configured and deployed many access points and devices onto various networks.

Two years and a significant pay bump later, Kevin now works as a Network Engineer for Samsung on their renowned infrastructure team. He feels grateful and satisfied with his new career. He always feels challenged and is learning something new everyday. He is super happy with his job and is not looking to pursue any advanced certifications right now. His parents are still very proud of him.

Around two million people graduated college the same year as Kevin. Many of them are stuck in repetitive jobs or unemployed. Kevin was smart enough to admit that he had made a mistake when choosing economics as his major. And he did it quickly. He has now embarked on a new career, in an industry that never stops growing and changing.

Unlike other early students of Zero to Engineer, he didn’t know anything about IT. But this motivated him even more. At the time, the program was designed to help people who were already in IT. But Terry made it work out for him. He told Kevin what to study and where to go to find it.

Kevin literally went from Zero to Engineer in less than a year. Since he graduated from the program, Terry has added more content. It is now a complete solution for those who want a career in IT. Within months, anyone with motivation and drive can now become a network engineer.

Additionally, students who finish the program have the option of getting certified in-person; during a 5-day boot camp. In the bootcamp, student gain experience handling real world equipment. On the fifth day, they have the opportunity to earn the title of Full Stack Network Associate. 

Zero to Engineer is now offered in an online learning platform called NexGenT. Here, students can interact with other students, mentors and alumni. They can book one-on-one live mentor sessions. They can work on their own labs and even carry out their own full stack networking project. If Kevin ever needs help, he can reach out to the NexGenT community of students, alumni and mentors.

The difference between getting stuck and skyrocketing through the ranks of IT

The difference between getting stuck and skyrocketing through the ranks of IT

On a rainy Sunday afternoon back in 1986, a 5-year old boy stood motionless in front of a TV set. He watched attentively, but seemed frustrated—almost as if he were trying to make sense of the ever changing images and sounds that danced flawlessly right in front of him. He wondered and couldn’t seem to grasp why the black car he was watching so intensely on the screen was able to drive itself and talk like a human being.

It wasn’t a cartoon, nor had he seen anything like it in his entire life. All he knew was that people were only able to talk to one another. The car was a $100,000 black Pontiac Firebird Trans Am that had been customized to be featured on the Science Fiction TV show Knight Rider, starring David Hasselhoff.

It was meant to be a high-tech artificial intelligence-equipped vehicle capable of preventing accidents, driving itself and maintaining a human conversation (good ol’ science fiction as Elon Musk would say, right?). In the show, it’s purpose was to assist the main character as he fought crime and protected innocent people.

Next to Scott, the little boy, stood his grandfather, who couldn’t help but notice how his grandson’s eyes opened up a little more than usual staring at the car, and how he listened quietly whenever it spoke, almost as if it were softly whispering one of the world’s most precious secrets into his ear. On that rainy September afternoon of 1982, that little boy discovered his life’s true passion: technology.

His grandfather, Herbert, an experienced surgeon, had decided to immigrate to the U.S from the Philippines in the early 70’s after a colleague of his had referred him to a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. He eventually started his own practice in America and was able to raise a family of seven with his dear wife Amparo.

Scott’s grandfather, Herbert

Most of their children had gone on to pursue professional careers in medicine, and that made him very proud. After all, the opportunity to mentor his children and share his passion with them was something he always cherished dearly.

That afternoon, however, as he watched little Scott focus his entire attention on the screen, he didn’t think for a second that Scott should be obligated to pursue medicine. Instead, he felt the need to nurture his grandson’s curiosity, even if that meant he would never become a doctor.

Herbert had been following technology for a while. He was very aware of the potential it had and had invested a considerable portion of his savings in Apple and IBM. Back in the 1970s before their stocks soared to places higher than where Philippe Petit was as he walked back and forth across the very top of the World Trade Center in 1974; on a steel wire thinner than one of little Scott’s arms.

Always looking out for his grandson, he knew that preparing ahead of time for technology’s imminent rise, would likely give him a competitive edge in the future. Herbert understood, having achieved success in his life, that hard work was arguably the best recipe for success—that nothing was going to be handed to Scott on a silver plate. So he nurtured his grandson’s enthusiasm, encouraged him to pursue his passion and motivated him to always keep learning as if he didn’t know anything at all.

Fast forward a few years to around the turn of the century. In high school, Scott enrolled in electronics, technical drafting and even took a computer repair class to stimulate his hunger for technology, which had remained just as vivid as when he first saw that black-talking car.

Laser-focused on his goal of pursuing a technical degree, he worked thoroughly on his skills to hit the ground running in college. This way, he would be able to make better use of his free time rather than watching it fly by dealing with the shock of not being well prepared for higher education.  

Scott enrolled in UNLV in the fall of 1999 and started pursuing a degree in Management of Information Systems. His freshmen year, he landed a side job answering phone calls as a call center support specialist for a small computer company, where he learned that he would need to get technical certifications if he wanted to have a career in IT.

His parents decided to separate around this time, forcing Scott to work full time to pay for his tuition because his mother couldn’t afford it. It took him 6 years to get his degree. But almost immediately after graduating in 2005, he became an Internet Technician for a medium-sized company called Priority Networks, where he worked installing and managing internet connectivity at big conventions for about 2 years.

Then, he became a Junior Network Engineer for a Cisco training certification boot camp for about 5 years, something along the lines of NexGenT but without the online platform. A little over seven years after leaving college he was able to become a Network Engineer for a medical company where, after some time in the role, he felt like he had reached the epitome of his career—he had hit a wall.

For all those years, Scott had been making the big mistake of putting the companies he had worked for ahead of his personal and professional growth. He would go as far as putting an extra ten hours a week to focus on troubleshooting, so that his companies didn’t have to hire additional personnel and thus, save money. His bosses loved him (but who wouldn’t?).

He had the work ethic, the motivation, the passion and was extraordinarily proactive when it came to solving problems. But he wasn’t growing. He believed that this was the best way of moving up in the industry, and he did. But it took a painfully long amount of time.

Looking out the window it seemed like other people moved much faster than him—like if he were running on a treadmill for hours while his peers walked on what seemed like frictionless ground. He knew he needed to invest his time on acquiring new skills rather than fixing problems and troubleshooting if he wanted to break free from his current situation and jump on new trends before it was too late.

But it wasn’t as simple as when he was starting out and could just get experience from anywhere. This time, he needed to get a specific kind of experience—he needed to learn the most in-demand skills of the moment and how to navigate through the industry much faster than before.

But he didn’t really know how. He felt stuck —similar to when he used to stand in front of the TV and make sense of the black self-driving car that could talk like a human, without even knowing how to go about it.

At that moment—he couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to be stuck in his position for years and years. He ran into the Zero to Engineer program while his motivation was quickly fading away. 

At the time, he already had over 10 years of experience so the Zero to Engineer program name wasn’t that appealing to him. Nevertheless, when he learned that the people behind it, Terry and Jacob, had worked for some of the top tech companies in the world as Systems Engineers, it sparked his interest. They had also successfully ran their own IT consulting firm, and had graduated over 1,000 engineers while serving as instructors for the U.S Air Force, and that’s when he realized that Zero to Engineer could give him what he had been looking for and he enrolled.

He learned about all the areas of networking and how to succeed in them. He became particularly interested in cybersecurity, a growing and promising field, and felt the desire to switch and pursue a career in it.

As he went through Zero to Engineer, Terry motivated and guided him to make the switch from networking to security, especially since Terry previously did it himself and went from being broke to becoming a Network Engineer making over 6 figures within 24 months. He revived Scott’s lifelong inner fire for learning new things, which he had been keeping to himself for the latest years of his career.

Shortly after completing the program, he became a Security Engineer for Hospital & Healthcare, a company with over 2,500 employees. He gets to work with multiple tools to address threat vulnerability, intelligence issues and manage firewalls, among other things.

His only regret is not running into Zero to Engineer when he was a freshman in college. He could have avoided wasting so much time making so many mistakes and not getting promoted faster, but this is not a problem anymore.

He now has a career plan, understands how the industry works, and knows exactly what to focus on to keep growing as an IT professional. And if it wasn’t enough, if he is ever hesitating or having doubts, he can rely on the NexGenT community of alumni, mentors and students for support. He won’t stop learning.

Currently, he’s working towards getting his CCNP Security and his CISSP. From there, he plans to become a Security Architect or Pre Sales Security Engineer. But he is very pleased and happy with his current position, which gives him the flexibility to spend more time with his wife, and their 4-year old daughter and 4-month old son.

Ultimately, he wants to be there for his children, and encourage them to pursue their talents and passion. Just like his grandfather Herbert did when he first saw him stare at that black-talking car on that rainy Sunday afternoon.

From uncertainty to a 6-figure technical job [Plus the luxury to work from home]

From uncertainty to a 6-figure technical job [Plus the luxury to work from home]

One of the very first students of Zero to Engineer already had years of experience. He had served as an IT instructor at the Air Force, and was currently working as a network engineer. He had served in the Air Force for about 8 years, after which he decided to transition back to civilian life. But shortly after, Andrew Pratt realized he didn’t know how to apply his skills to the IT industry. He was setting himself up to be at his current role for many years to come, which wasn’t an option.

He already had three kids and wanted to provide the best life he could for them. He was grateful for his job. But, he wasn’t pleased with his current salary, which had him and his family living in a very small house. Andrew doubled his salary right after graduating from the Zero to Engineer program. He moved his family to a much bigger house—over three times bigger than their last house, in fact. Nowadays, he loves his current job, which often gives him the flexibility to work from home.

Download our free 5 step guide to becoming a Network Engineer

His story begins back in the day, when he couldn’t stand his job anymore. It wasn’t what he had expected—flat-out boring. Every day, before the first hour had passed, he was already staring at the clock on the top right of his screen. He had always been into gaming and technology, reason he had applied for the role. Yet, it wasn’t even close to what he had expected it to be when he was going through the long and tedious hiring process.

Customers would walk in, some in need of help to fix a problem and others to look around. But, most of them walked out unhappy. Not because Andrew wasn’t good at dealing with people. In fact, most people praised him for his good service and willingness to help. But because the company’s policies, it appeared to him, squeezed every penny out of customer’s pockets.

Related: The one thing that transitioning vets should know but no one tells them

He was very young, and knew there were better options so he decided to leave his job at Sprint. He joined the Air Force, where he served as part of the Network Infrastructure team and as an IT instructor. There, he developed a character full of discipline and accountability, always falling through with anything he set his mind to.

While at the Air Force, he started a family with his wife Natalee, who also worked in the communications department. He was very comfortable where he was, but his military career was coming to an end. He had decided to transition at the end of his second period.

He was planning to use his tech skills to break into a stable career in the civilian world, but it wasn’t that easy. He spent about three months looking for a job. Finally, he landed a position as a network administrator for a medium-sized law firm.

In this role, he applied all the knowledge he had acquired over the past few years. But a few months later, he realized he wasn’t making enough to provide for his family like he wanted to.

Also, working at a law firm wasn’t the ideal setup to move up in the IT industry. He wanted to switch jobs but didn’t want to risk losing the one he had, which had taken him plenty of effort and stress to get. So, he began to wonder if his decision to transition to the civilian world was the correct one. After all, he had walked away from a stable career and everyday job structure and he had given up his right to receiving great benefits in the meantime.

He needed a better paying job, but he had never asked for a salary raise nor he felt comfortable going through job interviews again. He decided to to establish structure and set goals for his new career. But, he realized he didn’t understand the industry well enough to do so. There wasn’t much he could do besides scouting the web looking for advice.

Frustrated with his situation, he decided to look for a mentor that could guide him. It was then that he stumbled upon one of Terry Kim’s ads on Facebook offering a free online masterclass. Terry said he would  teach a few of the methods he used to move up the IT industry faster than normal. Also, he promised to share some of the key things he had learned in his 15+ years of experience.

Terry, was also a former Air Force IT instructor. He had transitioned out of the military over a decade ago. In the civilian world, he had gone on to work as a Systems Engineer for some of the biggest tech companies in the world. He has worked for Cisco, Arista Networks and Dimension Data, which was something  Andrew aspired to do.

Terry had also ran his own IT consulting firm for quite some time, so he knew what he was talking about. During the online masterclass, Terry talked about the big picture of the industry. He gave a brief explanation of the most valuable and in-demand skills of the moment. He elaborated on a few of the tactics he used to advance through the IT world faster than normal. And, he told the inspirational story of how he went from being broke to becoming a network engineer making over 6 figures a year within 24 months.

Andrew paid close attention as Terry spoke about the exact things he needed to do to be successful in IT. But an hour and a half wasn’t enough for him to change his situation.

Andrew decided to enroll in Zero to Engineer right after the webinar. He wanted to learn all the tactics and soft skills to negotiate salaries, get promoted and plan for a successful career. He was very intrigued by having the possibility of having Terry be his mentor.

After all, Terry had been in his same position in the military and had had major success in the civilian world. Now a father to four kids, Andrew made it his main focus to make the most out of the program. He followed all the advice Terry gave him and worked on every homework assignment.

He learned how to sell himself much better. Going through the Zero to Engineer program he got a job at NASA working as a network engineer. In this role, he provided WAN/CAN/LAN network engineering, and management for over 5000 nodes. And, he managed and auditing firewalls, VPN concentrators, routers and switches.

He successfully negotiated two salary raises and was able to double his salary to over 6 figures a year. Later on, Andrew left his role at NASA for a network engineering position at Insight Global and then went on to become an infrastructure engineer at Riot Games. He now enjoys having enough flexibility to work from home often and spend extra time with his wife and kids.

He is also working as contractor for a gaming company, which allows him to work on things that he has always liked to do. Currently, he holds many advanced certifications, including a CISSP and a CEH.

When Andrew went through the Zero to Engineer program, he already had a lot of experience. He needed mentorship and guidance, which he received and applied. Everything worked out quite well for him. But, ever since he graduated, the program has added a lot more content. It is now a complete solution for those who want a career in IT.

Within months, a student with no experience can now become a network engineer. Additionally, students who finish the program have the option of getting certified in-person. During a 5-day boot camp, students can gain experience handling real world equipment. On the fifth day, they have the opportunity to earn the title of Full Stack Network Associates.

Zero to Engineer is now offered in an online learning platform called NexGenT. Here, students can interact with other students, mentors and alumni. They can book one on one live mentor sessions.

They can work on their own labs, and even carry out their own full stack networking project. After a couple of months at his current role, Andrew accepted Terry’s offer of becoming a NexGenT mentor. He is looking forward to helping many people reach their career goals.

From a warehouse to Senior Network Engineer making well over 6 figures

From a warehouse to Senior Network Engineer making well over 6 figures

One afternoon on his way to work, he noticed an unusual number of people gathered together around a small-brownish building in the middle of town. For some reason, he left his house five hours earlier than usual and had time to spare before his 11:00 p.m. shift. 

Intrigued by all the people gathered in town, most of whom were walking faster than normal, he directed his attention to a lady who seemed to know what was happening. ‘Today is the last day to apply to the Diversity Immigrant program, sir’, she said in a very friendly tone.

As he was turning around to get back on his way to work, she added: ‘every year it awards 50,000 permanent resident visas to the United States. It costs about 5 dollars to apply and millions of people do it around the world’. It was worth the shot.

He paused for a second, pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and looked inside. He had just enough to afford the application fee. They gave him a paper form, he filled it out with his personal information and left for work. A year later, he was granted one of the most coveted visas in the world and immigrated to the United States in 2013.

Kwame Ohemeng grew up in Ghana, a country located in west Africa just north of the Gulf of Guinea. It is a country with one of the most stable economies in the continent of Africa and rightly so due to its abundant gold reserves. 

In his teenage years, he found himself spending his days playing video games and watching TV shows until one day he had had enough—he was wasting his life. High school was coming to an end and he needed to start working towards something that could give him a shot to a brighter future.

He knew he was good with technology so he decided to dedicate his free time to learning HTML. But he realized he needed to learn how to type without looking at the keyboard in order to learn faster. He did, and then learned HTML, CSS, Joomla, Drupal and WordPress, investing every second he used to “waste” playing video games, now on his studies.

He enrolled in college to pursue a degree in telecom engineering. In addition to studying for his degree, he added a 6-month Cisco training course that enabled him to land a job after graduating and he started working as a Telecommunications Engineer at Ghana Television. He was there for a couple years until he switched companies and took on the role of Network Specialist at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation. 

In this role, he gained valuable hands-on experience investigating and implementing modern switching and routing platforms, and troubleshooting ISP and WAN connectivity. It was on his way to this job that he decided to stop and ask why there were so many people clustered together in the same place—leading to him winning a free one-way ticket to Uncle Sam’s house.

When he landed in the United States, he expected to pick up his technology career right where he left off. But it wasn’t as simple as he thought it would be. In the U.S., companies required certifications to validate a person’s knowledge. He tried interviewing a couple of times but didn’t do a great job of selling himself to hiring managers and was unable to find an entry level position.

Even with all his experience, he ended up working in a warehouse for a company that manufactured air conditioners. He was going to be working eight hours a week, which took up most of his time. But he promised himself that he would use every minute of his free time to study for his first certification.

While he was searching for resources online, he came across one of the Zero to Engineer ads. The program was offering mentorship from Terry Kim, who had several years of experience working for top tech companies as a Systems Engineer, teaching IT in the military, and running his own IT consulting firm.

He offered to mentor Kwame and to teach him how to navigate through the industry—avoiding all the pitfalls and traps that were awaiting him—much faster than what he thought was possible. During the training, he was told what to study, which certifications to go for and what specific tactics to use to land the best paying and rewarding jobs.

Terry walked him through setting up his online presence on LinkedIn and laying out a plan to go from his current situation to becoming a Senior Network Engineer in a short period of time. He passed the CCNA certification exam after studying for about one month. Then, he enrolled in a course at a local community college to prepare for his CCNP and earned the certification even before finishing the community college course. 

Once he finished going through Zero to Engineer and had his certifications in place, he was better equipped at selling himself during job interviews. He went a step further and set up a basic website to upload tutorials and short explanations of simple and complex concepts he learned. 

He could now walk into interviews without a single thing to worry about—having a list of skills to showcase as well as technical certifications to back up his statements. He was very thankful for having a job at the warehouse, but it was now time to move on. He applied for a Network Engineer role at a company in Georgia, where he had been living since immigrating from Africa, and was invited to an interview.

He walked into the hiring manager’s office full of confidence. There wasn’t a single thing on the online job description that he hadn’t mastered—he was ready for all kinds of questions and perhaps even a hands-on challenge. He sat down and talked to the manager for a few minutes—everything seemed to be going very well.

He was feeling excited and proud of himself for making it this far, and couldn’t help but feel great satisfaction. After all that hard work; after all those long nights studying, he was finally going to become a Network Engineer working for a company in the United States of America.

Something he had never even dreamed of when he decided to quit playing video games and seek a better future for himself. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the job. The hiring manager told him that he was overqualified for the position. A job that offered a $70,000 a year salary, almost double what he was making at the warehouse.

All that hard work, all that studying and dedication and he was turned down because he was overqualified. He felt disappointed but picked himself right back up. He had come way too far to even entertain the thought of giving up, and he wasn’t considering going back to the warehouse.

After he was turned down by the company, he received a message from Cisco saying that he had made their “Dream Team”, which consisted of some of the very best Cisco students from all over the United States and Canada. A team that was carefully crafted through a very rigorous selection process.

They wanted him to help set up and configure Cisco Live’s network along with other top students and a few Cisco Network Operations Engineers. They deployed over 1,200 Cisco wireless access points and antennas, successfully providing more than 30,000 users with flawless connectivity across 2.5 million square feet of conference space. This experience enabled him to have a front row seat into what it took to build complex networks, and reinforced the already strong belief he had in himself.

Shortly after Cisco Live he landed a job at PCM, a company with over 20,000 employees. He has been there for less than 2 years, but he has earned the respect of his peers—becoming the go-to person in the IT department. He has done everything from deploying the Cisco Identity Service Engine (ISE) and dozens of other network devices to providing an assessment of their networks and architecting a design that reduced congestion.

He is constantly learning new things and working on complex projects, something he enjoys very much. Even though he was not at level zero when he enrolled, the Zero to Engineer program empowered him to make the most out of his experience and jumpstart his career.

Before, he didn’t know how to navigate through the IT industry, or what to do to increase his chances of getting promoted faster. He had a lot of experience, but without the right mentorship he would have still found himself stuck working at the warehouse. Not knowing exactly what to study would have prevented him from attaining a successful career.

Nowadays, he is studying for the CCIE certification exam. He often gets offered top positions with compensation packages most people would kill for, but he is happy at his current role and doesn’t really consider them. He is now a mentor in the Nexgent platform,  and wants to help inspire other people, especially from his home country, to pursue careers in technology, which can change their lives if they’re willing to put in the hours to develop their skill sets.